- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2014

Kshama Sawant, a socialist City Council member in Seattle, recently told an audience that concerns about raising minimum wage were unduly ratcheted due to an analysis by a “right-wing think tank” — only the data was written by the Obama administration’s Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Ms. Sawant made the comments during a forum at Seattle Central Community College on minimum wage, when an attendee cited a study that showed an economic downturn for American Samoa after the U.S. territory substantially increased the minimum wage.

Ms. Sawant dismissed it as the work of “some organization called the Freedom Foundation, which is a right-wing think tank,” Watchdog.org reported.

“I feel strange calling it a ‘study’ because it’s a spurious analysis that has no basis in reality… Even by the standards of right-wing analysis, it’s not that great,” Ms. Sawant said.

But Watchdog.org pointed out that the data cited by Freedom Foundation actually came from a 147-page GAO report, which showed that from 2008 to 2009, employment in American Samoa dropped 19 percent and employment in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands fell by 13 percent.

Major employers took cost-cutting measures such as layoffs and hiring freezes, which they attributed to minimum wage increases mandated by the federal government. The law required the territory to raise minimum wage by 50 cents each year until it reached $7.25.

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The website added that in 2011, it was American Samoa’s Democratic governor, Togiola Tulafono, who took the federal government to task for the mandate.

“We are watching our economy burn down,” he said, according to Watchdog. He went on to say that the 2011 GAO report didn’t go far enough because it did “not adequately, succinctly or clearly convey the magnitude of the worsening economic disaster in American Samoa that has resulted primarily from the imposition of the 2007 U.S. minimum wage mandate.”

The Watchdog.org website, which is linked to Freedom Foundation, is a project of Franklin Center for Government & Public Public Integrity, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that cultivates investigative journalists and promotes government transparency.

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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